GOP Presidential Herman Cain again solemnly told a pack of pesky reporters in New Hampshire recently that he was absolutely confident that in a head to head match-up against President Obama that he could snatch a third of the black vote. The notion that he can get a big chunk of the black vote for the GOP is intriguing. It's intriguing because it has a ring to it that appeals to GOP leaders who have long imagined that if they could get the right black candidate and package their message just right they could draw an appreciable number of black voters. It's a good talking point with GOP hawker Cain out there leading the pack of GOP presidential contenders in some early but meaningless straw polls. Cain, though, is hardly the first to step into fantasy land with the notion that the GOP can grab lots of black votes.
In 2010, a record number of black Republicans ran for Congress. They had the GOP salivating at the prospect of not only putting a slew of black Republicans in Congress but doing it with substantial black votes snatched from the Democrats. Then former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell excitedly gloated that "This will be the most successful election cycle for African-American Republicans in at least 20 years." It wasn't. The two black GOP candidates that won, Tim Scott in South Carolina and Allen West in Florida registered barely a blip on the chart of black voters and won with white votes in near lock down GOP leaning districts.
Since Cain has declared his candidacy he has not secured the endorsement of one major black business, civic, or political organization. He has not secured the endorsement of a single nationally known black political leader. That includes well-known, and well-connected, African-American Republicans, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. In fact, he hasn't even gotten the endorsement of Scott or West. His support has been almost exclusively from the noisy, extreme, and disjoined Tea Party acolytes.
Blacks in the past have groused at and bashed the Democrats. But they still overwhelmingly vote for them. The off the chart vote blacks gave President Obama is repeatedly cited even by black Republican hopefuls as an aberration in that blacks turned the election into a holy crusade to get one of their own in the White House. It's wrong on two counts. Obama was more than just the fulfillment of a civil rights dream. He had a solid program for change that frontally challenged and promise of reversing the social and economic damage, race baiting, and neglect that characterized three decades of Republican rule in the White House and the sledgehammer attacks on or malign neglect of civil rights leaders and concerns when Republicans were out of the White House.
The rock solid loyalty of blacks to the Democrats is also based on simple pragmatism. The Congressional Black Caucus is Democrats, with the sole exception of West, and so are the leaders of the mainstream civil rights organizations. Despite the shots they take at the Democrats for taking them and their vote for granted, black Democrats and civil rights leaders are still highly respected. Most blacks still look to them to fight the tough battles for health care, greater funding for education and jobs, voting rights protections, affirmative action, and against racial discrimination. Civil rights organizations were the only groups that consistently fought back against Reagan, Bush Sr., and W. Bush's draconian cuts in job, education, social service, funding and programs, their retrograde nominees to the Supreme Court appointments that would roll back the civil rights clock, and their peck away at affirmative action, civil rights and civil liberties protections.
The Tea Party has done absolutely nothing to dispel that suspicion. Tea Party leaders loudly protest that blacks should not lambaste them as racists based on the quackery of a few bigots and race baiters among their ranks. The fact that those bigots and race baiters are there in the first place and with few exception Tea Party leaders have kept their mouths shut about them, let alone not drummed them out of the movement, is damning proof for blacks that their finger wag at big government, taxes and their tout of the Constitution and personal freedoms is just a cover for latent and no so latent bigotry toward one black man, President Obama.
The best assurance that black voters will not move even a fraction of an inch toward the GOP is Cain himself. His shoot-from the lip gaffes, jibes, and insults of blacks as "brainwashed," his shrug off of racism as irrelevant, his tout of an economic program that would blatantly increase the already gaping economic disparity between rich and poor, and his outrageous shock jock type quips and demeanor make even the most disinterested, skeptical, and hostile African-Americans toward the Democrats stay firmly planted in the Democratic column. Cain's quip that blacks will back him is the ultimate guarantee that they'll stay there.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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